Three weeks after a 15-month-old girl’s death at a Wichita carnival, another carnival is about to open.
On Thursday, Ottaway Amusement workers were erecting 18 rides in the parking lot of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at a time when the tragedy at the other carnival is still weighing on people’s minds.
On the night of May 12, 15-month-old Pressley Bartonek of Conway Springs was with her family at the Evans United Shows carnival in the Towne West parking lot when she was electrocuted outside a bounce house. According to her autopsy, Pressley suffered fatal injuries when she grabbed a metal fence, which a utility worker later found was carrying nearly 300 volts.
Neither Wichita police, who investigated, nor Evans United are saying how the fence became electrified.
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Danny Ottaway, the Ottaway Amusement president, said Thursday that the girl’s death prompted him to bring all of his staff together. He reminded them of the importance of checking equipment and ensuring that electrical wires “are inspected frequently to make sure the insulation is in good condition,” he said.
The head of Pennsylvania’s amusement safety program has told The Eagle that the Wichita death caused him to warn his inspectors to make sure that wiring is kept away from metal fences that are set up around rides. Traveling carnivals route heavy-duty wires to power their rides. The Pennsylvania official also said that part of the solution is using inexpensive voltage detectors.
Ottaway Amusement employs an inspector who checks the rides, and every ride operator does a secondary inspection before each day’s operation, Danny Ottaway said.
The May 12 death at the Evans United carnival has not prompted the city to conduct any on-site inspection of his carnival so far, he said Thursday.
As tragic as the death is, Ottaway said, “For the millions of people that this industry serves annually, it is such an isolated incident. I’m not trying to minimize the magnitude of this tragedy.”
It has weighed on him, too. “My wife and I have talked about it a lot. We’re just very, very sorry, and again, all of our condolences go out to that family and everyone involved.”
Ottaway Amusement, based in Derby, has been in business since 1944 and has never had any serious injury or fatality, Ottaway said.
By far, most accidents in the carnival world occur from slips or falls, he said.
He said he doesn’t expect any noticeable impact from the May 12 death on the turnout for his carnival.
This year’s Ottaway show opens at 6 p.m. Friday and runs through June 10.
The carnival is separate from Riverfest activities that are opening this week.